Circulating Lymphocyte Counts Early During Radiation Therapy Are Associated With Recurrence in Pediatric Medulloblastoma

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2021 Jul 15;110(4):1044-1052. doi: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.01.035. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Purpose: Decreased peripheral lymphocyte counts are associated with survival after radiation therapy (RT) in several solid tumors, although they appear late during or after the radiation course and often correlate with other clinical factors. Here we investigate if absolute lymphocyte counts (ALCs) are independently associated with recurrence in pediatric medulloblastoma early during RT.

Methods and materials: We assessed 202 patients with medulloblastoma treated between 2000 and 2016 and analyzed ALC throughout therapy, focusing on both early markers (ALC during week 1 - ALCwk1; grade 3+ Lymphopenia during week 2 - Lymphopeniawk2) and late markers (ALC nadir). Uni- and multivariable regressions were used to assess association of clinical and treatment variables with ALC and of ALC with recurrence.

Results: Thirty-six recurrences were observed, with a median time to recurrence of 1.6 years (range, 0.2-10.3) and 7.1 years median follow-up. ALC during RT was associated with induction chemotherapy (P < .001), concurrent carboplatin (P = .009), age (P = .01), and high-risk status (P = .05). On univariable analysis, high-risk disease (hazard ratio = 2.0 [1.06-3.9]; P = .03) and M stage≥1 (hazard ratio = 2.2 [1.1-4.4]) were associated with recurrence risk, as was lower ALC early during RT (ALCwk1, hazard ratio = 0.28 [0.12-0.65]; P = .003; Lymphopeniawk2, hazard ratio = 2.27 [1.1-4.6]; P = .02). Neither baseline ALC nor nadir correlated with outcome. These associations persisted when excluding carboplatin and pre-RT chemotherapy patients, and in the multivariable analysis accounting for confounders lymphocyte counts remained significant (ALCwk1, hazard-ratio = 0.23 [0.09-0.57]; P = .002; Lymphopeniawk2, hazard-ratio = 2.3 [1.1-4.8]; P = .03).

Conclusions: ALC during weeks 1 and 2 of RT was associated with recurrence, and low ALC is an independent prognostic factor in medulloblastoma. Strategies to mitigate the risk of radiation-induced lymphopenia should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chemoradiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Medulloblastoma / blood*
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Medulloblastoma / therapy*
  • Middle Aged